Living just under two hours from Salem, Massachusetts, my family has visited many times for a multitude of reasons. Salem in a port city founded in 1626. It is now most famous for its Witch Trails of 1692, and it’s author Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is also full of colonial architecture, world-class museums, and fun shopping and restaurants. Whether you are interested in art, pirates, witches, or history, you can easily spend more than a day here. But if you only have one day, a great day it will be! Read on for a few ideas to plan your Salem day trip.
Table of Contents
- 0.1 An Educational Exploration of Salem- Exploring The Crucible and Salem Witch Trials
- 0.2 Witch Dungeon Museum
- 0.3 Witch History Museum
- 0.4 Walking Tour- Myths and Misconceptions through the Essex National Heritage Organization
- 0.5 Tour the Witch House
- 1 Nathaniel Hawthorne and Salem, Massachusetts
- 2 Spooky Things to do in Salem, Massachusetts with Kids
- 3 Shopping and Eating in Salem, Massachusetts
- 4 Where should I park in Salem?
An Educational Exploration of Salem- Exploring The Crucible and Salem Witch Trials
Witch Hysteria was sweeping Europe, the governor of Massachusetts, William Phips, was off fighting the Indian Wars, just one of the wars raging around the Puritans of Salem. The Puritans, who believed in an invisible world, became part of a hysteria of their own which was immortalized in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
Many of the museums and tours in Salem served to teach about the trials. Some are factual, and many tell a great story. My husband is an English literature teacher, so one visit we took was to research for his teaching. We took our three boys, who were very entertained. Years before, I had visited with my then sixth-grader, who was also very interested in Salem after reading a book about the trials.
Witch Dungeon Museum
Our first stop was the Witch Dungeon Museum. It has a recreation of the witch trial courtroom with actors. There is also a life-sized model of the dungeons where the accused witches were kept. It was very touristy but did give a good overview of the realities and whys of the trials. There are many re-creation museums in this town and you probably only need to visit one.
Witch History Museum
We then went to the Witch History Museum. It was less interactive than the Witch Dungeon Museum, but I preferred this tour as I felt I learned more. Be sure to read the signs with all the facts in the waiting room. They were very informative but had a few historical inaccuracies per my husband as all the museums did. Tours start every half hour.
Walking Tour- Myths and Misconceptions through the Essex National Heritage Organization
This no-frills walking tour will give you a factual overview of the witch trials. It visits the Salem Witch Trial Memorial and the town’s oldest cemetery, the Old Burying Point.
Tour the Witch House
Although no witches or trails happened here, the Jonathan Corwin House is the only house still standing with a tie to the trials. Jonathan Corwin was one of the judges for the trials. The house, built in the 1600s is open to be toured.
Nathaniel Hawthorne and Salem, Massachusetts
Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, was born and raised in Salem. He is a descendant of one of the witch trial judges, John Hathorne.
Visit The House of the Seven Gables
Spooky Things to do in Salem, Massachusetts with Kids
When my oldest son and I came for a visit late one September, we were looking to experience Salem’s spookiness. If you want to see Salem at its spookiest, consider visiting at Halloween.
Salem Witch Village
My son wanted to learn more about witches. At the Salem Witch Village. He learned what lore was actual and about the origins of some of our holidays. Our guide, Michael, did a great job educating us and keeping us entertained. The museum is on an alleyway with many other witch-themed attractions and haunted houses.
Salem’s Sinister Stories Ghost Tour
By far our favorite part of our day was our 5 o’clock ghost tour with the interesting Kenneth of Sinister Stories of Salem. He has a long history in Salem. Kenneth is a Quaker, very soft-spoken and a born storyteller. To be sure that you can hear him, he wears a microphone. He walked through town, sometimes breaking out in mournful songs or stopping to tell ghost stories related to the town’s histories. His information was both historical and supernatural. The 90-minute tour went well over two hours, and my son and I were never bored. In December he does a different tour regarding St. Nicholas lore that I am interested in going back for.
Shopping and Eating in Salem, Massachusetts
Essex Street Pedestrian Mall
There are great restaurants and shops all around town, but this pedestrian mall is a fun and comfortable place to explore.
Food Worth Eating in Salem, Massachusetts
We had first visited this spot a few years ago when this was Salem Screamery. Thankfully, the new owner has switched over to only homemade ice cream and still has a memorable salted caramel brownie.
Tavern in the Square
They claim the best burgers, and we did quite enjoy the bacon brie burger. We also love the location, right on the pedestrian Essex Street, and the patio over the fountain map of Salem.
Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie
On the Heritage Trail across from the House of the Seven Gables is the US’ oldest candy shop, Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie. It contains some delightful early candy making machines as well as most types of candy for sale.